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Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed


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So...do you think Stein believes doctors are evil as well? The medical world is certainly part of the sciences. If he is sick and the doctor prescribes some medication...does he accuse the doctor of being a Nazi and walk out?

While Stein either trolling or being willfully ignorant, it's worth noting that much scientific research is done for the primary purpose of creating weapons. So yes, in a sense science leads to more efficient killing, but it also leads to technological advances that help society. In the case of evolution, I'm not sure it leads to either thing. I don't really see evolutionary biology as an area of research with the potential to benefit or hurt mankind in any tangible way.

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Science and technology are not the same thing.

They are, however, closely linked. Most technology is the result of at least one branch of the sciences and research.

"You know...not EVERY story has to be interesting." -Gibby

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So...do you think Stein believes doctors are evil as well? The medical world is certainly part of the sciences. If he is sick and the doctor prescribes some medication...does he accuse the doctor of being a Nazi and walk out?

While Stein either trolling or being willfully ignorant, it's worth noting that much scientific research is done for the primary purpose of creating weapons.

As others have pointed out, you are conflating science with technology.

So yes, in a sense science leads to more efficient killing, but it also leads to technological advances that help society. In the case of evolution, I'm not sure it leads to either thing. I don't really see evolutionary biology as an area of research with the potential to benefit or hurt mankind in any tangible way.

So how many creationist or intelligent design biomedical research institutes or pharma companies exist?

Do literalist Bible colleges do any biomedical research?

The point you're missing is that biomedical research is built on an evolutionary foundation, and even a lot of more applied research, like pharmacology, involves evolutionary principles as well. So the evidence is that all those people who are doing productive biomedical research are those whom Ben Stein would deceptively label as "Darwinists."

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Jim Manzi at National Review has an excellent review of the film that neatly dismantles, piece by piece, each of its assertions in favour of "academic freedom", before turning to other matters.

"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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Science and technology are not the same thing.

I'd expect that my statement that one thing (science) leads to another (technology) would make it clear that they are indeed separate things.

The point was that the study of origins doesn't typically yield any technology that's useful for harm or help. But I forgot that science can yield both technology *and* philosophy. I think the error is still Stein's, as he (seemingly) can't separate philosophy and science. Even if Darwinism the philosophy is dependent on Darwinism the science, the science isn't dependent on the philosophy... making it pointless (Edit: or at least inefficient) to try to discredit the science if what you're interested in is the philosophy.

Oh well.

The point you're missing is that biomedical research is built on an evolutionary foundation, and even a lot of more applied research, like pharmacology, involves evolutionary principles as well. So the evidence is that all those people who are doing productive biomedical research are those whom Ben Stein would deceptively label as "Darwinists."

I'm not sure how pharmacology depends at all on having a likely guess at how life on this planet came to be, but I'm sure you'll be happy to cite some sources for me. I'm also pretty sure you misinterpreted my last post, since I'm not really sure what you're arguing against.

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Science and technology are not the same thing.

I'd expect that my statement that one thing (science) leads to another (technology) would make it clear that they are indeed separate things.

The point was that the study of origins doesn't typically yield any technology that's useful for harm or help. But I forgot that science can yield both technology *and* philosophy. I think the error is still Stein's, as he (seemingly) can't separate philosophy and science. Even if Darwinism the philosophy is dependent on Darwinism the science, the science isn't dependent on the philosophy... making it pointless (Edit: or at least inefficient) to try to discredit the science if what you're interested in is the philosophy.

Oh well.

Science and technology feed on each other. It's not a one-way street. I hate to be the one to tell you this, but there's neither a philosophy nor a science called "Darwinism." If you want to approach something resembling the truth, it's important not to adopt misleading political language. Is there a "Journal of Darwinism" among either philosophy or science journals?

You're unclear when you write, "the study of origins." Please don't conflate evolutionary biology with abiogenesis research. If you mean abiogenesis research, you're still wrong, as catalytic RNAs are a very, very useful technology.

The point you're missing is that biomedical research is built on an evolutionary foundation, and even a lot of more applied research, like pharmacology, involves evolutionary principles as well. So the evidence is that all those people who are doing productive biomedical research are those whom Ben Stein would deceptively label as "Darwinists."

I'm not sure how pharmacology depends at all on having a likely guess at how life on this planet came to be, but I'm sure you'll be happy to cite some sources for me.

Evolutionary biology is the study about how life on this planet diversified, not how it came to be. Pharmacology is incredibly dependent upon an understanding of evolution. For example, you might check out this page of a pharmacology textbook:

http://tinyurl.com/4gpexl

Do you really think that if you were developing a drug that is an agonist for one of those receptors, that such a tree wouldn't suggest likely crossreactivities and therefore undesired side effects?

I'm also pretty sure you misinterpreted my last post, since I'm not really sure what you're arguing against.

Sloppy thinking, especially when it arises from the use of deceptive labels.

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I hate to be the one to tell you this, but there's neither a philosophy nor a science called "Darwinism." If you want to approach something resembling the truth, it's important not to adopt misleading political language. Is there a "Journal of Darwinism" among either philosophy or science journals?

It's Stein's term, not mine. I've put "Darwinism" in quotes most other times I've used it in this thread. Does something require a journal to be a philosophy? As an aside, what do you suppose "Darwinism" is if it's not a philosophy?

You're unclear when you write, "the study of origins." Please don't conflate evolutionary biology with abiogenesis research. If you mean abiogenesis research, you're still wrong, as catalytic RNAs are a very, very useful technology.

This is fair. People who aren't scientists lump the two together... ie "origin of life" and "origin of the species" refer to the same umbrella in a lot of contexts.

Interesting info on pharmacology. I'll stand down on that point. It was minor anyway.

[What I'm arguing against is] sloppy thinking, especially when it arises from the use of deceptive labels.

It doesn't seem fair to attribute sloppy semantics to sloppy thinking.

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I hate to be the one to tell you this, but there's neither a philosophy nor a science called "Darwinism." If you want to approach something resembling the truth, it's important not to adopt misleading political language. Is there a "Journal of Darwinism" among either philosophy or science journals?

I guess someone in the science community should tell that to pop science mags like Discover, which I get handed down to me by my father-in-law. See, for instance, this article from last July:

http://discovermagazine.com/2007/brain/cogitator

So if it's okay for a Nobel Prize-winning neurobiologist to use the term "Darwinism," and if the terms "Darwinist" and "Darwinism" show up pretty regularly in the pages of a magazine like Discover (try the Google searches "site:discovemagazine.com +darwinist" and "site:discovemagazine.com +darwinism") , why is it not okay for film critics or laymen (or Ben Stein) to use the word? Serious question.

And I'm not talking about misuse of the word, but its use at all. Your claim seems to be that the word itself has no bearing in a scientific context.

Because this is what it seems like to me when I get lectured by scientists about this: only those qualified to use certain words get to use them; the rest of us have to suffer along with vague and imprecise (but politically correct) language that really prevents us from saying anything at all. It's irksome, and seems to be of a kind with the "what's science?" definition game. It suggests that there's an elitist, members-only club that requires secret knowledge and handshakes to get into... and if you don't know the right passwords and catchphrases, you don't get in (or you get thrown out). And it never seems to be about merely getting definitions squared away so that communication can proceed. It seems to be about, specifically, denying that the word "Darwinist" ever existed in a scientific context (which it clearly does) so that I.D.'s presuppositions can be elegantly (if dishonestly) undercut.

(I'm not suggesting there's not a good answer to my question, by the way. I'd just like to hear what it is.)

Edit: From an Ernst Mayr lecture:

Darwin founded a new branch of life science, evolutionary biology. ... These four insights served as the foundation for Darwin's founding of a new branch of the philosophy of science, a philosophy of biology. ... First, Darwinism rejects all supernatural phenomena and causations. ... Second, Darwinism refutes typology. ... Third, Darwin's theory of natural selection made any invocation of teleology unnecessary. ... Fourth, Darwin does away with determinism. ... Fifth, Darwin developed a new view of humanity and, in turn, a new anthropocentrism. ... Sixth, Darwin provided a scientific foundation for ethics. ... Almost every component in modern man's belief system is somehow affected by Darwinian principles.

Also, reportedly from Michael Ruse's article "Darwinism" in Keywords in Evolutionary Biology pp. 74-80 (does anybody have a copy?):

I suggest that there are essentially two meanings that go under the name of Darwinism. The first meaning, the more general one, is of a kind of world picture or Weltanschauung. It is of a sort of faith or philosophy, in the vernacular sense -- perhaps even something akin to a faith or religion. ... Darwinism in our second sense, the scientific sense, accepts with Darwin that the key mechanism of evolutionary change is natural selection or [as it was also called] the survival of the fittest -- a mechanism that depends crucially on the struggle between organisms for food and space. Because together with this kind of struggle goes the intraspecific struggle for mates, most Darwinians [in the second sense] accept also the subsidiary mechanism of sexual selection -- although some have been inclined to roll the two together or downplay the latter.
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Greg Wright

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I think the error is still Stein's, as he (seemingly) can't separate philosophy and science.

Bingo. But it isn't just Stein who has gotten them confused.

The pro-ID movement has been spearheaded by Seattle's Discovery Institute, led by one Bruce Chapman. Chapman's stated goal in promoting ID was to combat the philosophy of scientific materialism. I guess the belief that materialism is predicated on evolutionary science leads to the conclusion that one must attack the science in order to critique the philosophy.

Naturally, things haven't gone that well for Chapman since the Pa. school board decision. I'm all for a critique of materialistic philosophy, but it sure looks as though ID is not going to be a viable basis for that critique.

Let's Carl the whole thing Orff!

Do you know the deep dark secret of the avatars?

It's big. It's fat. It's Greek.

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: Stein:

"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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I hate to be the one to tell you this, but there's neither a philosophy nor a science called "Darwinism." If you want to approach something resembling the truth, it's important not to adopt misleading political language. Is there a "Journal of Darwinism" among either philosophy or science journals?

I guess someone in the science community should tell that to pop science mags like Discover, which I get handed down to me by my father-in-law. See, for instance, this article from last July:

http://discovermagazine.com/2007/brain/cogitator

So if it's okay for a Nobel Prize-winning neurobiologist to use the term "Darwinism," and if the terms "Darwinist" and "Darwinism" show up pretty regularly in the pages of a magazine like Discover (try the Google searches "site:discovemagazine.com +darwinist" and "site:discovemagazine.com +darwinism") , why is it not okay for film critics or laymen (or Ben Stein) to use the word? Serious question.

Serious answer: Edelman was using the term metaphorically, and it's not even a good metaphor, because despite the importance of selection, neurons don't reproduce. This is somewhat ironic, as he won the Nobel for immunology, and the acquired immune response is an amazing, real-time example of Darwinian evolution within an organism. I would hope that film critics would have little trouble distinguishing metaphors from literal claims.

In Discover, I don't see a single case outside of the letters in which "darwinist" or "darwinism" were used to represent a philosophy or science, do you?

And I'm not talking about misuse of the word, but its use at all. Your claim seems to be that the word itself has no bearing in a scientific context.

I don't see that I've made such a claim at all.

Because this is what it seems like to me when I get lectured by scientists about this: only those qualified to use certain words get to use them; the rest of us have to suffer along with vague and imprecise (but politically correct) language that really prevents us from saying anything at all. It's irksome, and seems to be of a kind with the "what's science?" definition game. It suggests that there's an elitist, members-only club that requires secret knowledge and handshakes to get into... and if you don't know the right passwords and catchphrases, you don't get in (or you get thrown out). And it never seems to be about merely getting definitions squared away so that communication can proceed. It seems to be about, specifically, denying that the word "Darwinist" ever existed in a scientific context (which it clearly does) so that I.D.'s presuppositions can be elegantly (if dishonestly) undercut.

Here's an example of how the term prevents understanding: there's absolutely nothing Darwinian about our having vast amounts of functionless DNA, yet the ID movement calls this Darwinist. Then, when 0.0001% of the total DNA provisionally classified as "junk" is shown to have a function by a scientist they'd describe as a Darwinist, the ID movement claims that "junk DNA" is a myth, and that they predicted this all along. The reality is that a small proportion of DNA previously explained by completely un-Darwinian evolution can now be explained by Darwinian evolution. That's about as Orwellian as one can get.

As for your quotes, Mayr was speaking historically, and Ruse is a philosopher who makes a living on this controversy. It's worth noting another important part of Mayr's lecture with respect to Expelled's claims about the consequences of "Darwinism"--

Ironically, though, these events did not lead to an end to anthropocentrism. The study of man showed that, in spite of his descent, he is indeed unique among all organisms. Human intelligence is unmatched by that of any other creature. Humans are the only animals with true language, including grammar and syntax. Only humanity, as Darwin emphasized, has developed genuine ethical systems. In addition, through high intelligence, language and long parental care, humans are the only creatures to have created a nich culture. And by these means, humanity has attained, for better on wonse, an unprecedented dominance over the entire globe.

Sixth, Darwin provided a scientiflc foundation for ethics. The question is frequently raised - and usually rebuffed - as to whether evolution adequately explains healthy human ethics. Many wonder how, if selection rewards the individual only for behavior that enhances bis own survival and reproductive success, such pure selfishness can lead to any sound ethics. The widespread thesis of social Darwinism, promoted at the end of the 19th century by Spencer, was that evolutionary explanations were at odds with the development of ethics.

We now know, however, that in a social species not only the individual must be considered - an entire social group can be the target of selection. Darwin applied this reasoning to the human species in 1871 in The Descent of Man. The survival and prosperity of a social group depends to a large extent on the harmonious cooperation of the members of the group, and this behavior must be based on altruism. Such altruism, by furthering the survival and prosperity of the group, also indirectly benefits the fitness of the group's individuals. The result amounts to selection favoring altruistic behavior.

Kin selection and reciprocal helpfulness in particular will be greatly favored in a social group. Such selection for altruism has been demonstrated in recent years to be widespread among many other social animals. One can then perhaps encapsulate the relation between ethics and evolution by saying that a propensity for altruism and harmonious cooperation in social groups is favored by natural selection. The old thesis of social Darwinism - strict selfishness - was based on an incomplete understanding of animals, particularly social species.

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Interesting info on pharmacology. I'll stand down on that point. It was minor anyway.

Thanks, but I have to disagree with your claim that it was minor. It goes back to the question of why Ruloff, if he was looking to make biotech investments, didn't start a creationist or ID company instead of making this dog of a movie.

Since pharmacology and other biomedical sciences are informed by evolution and evolutionary theory, if evolutionary theory is wrong and ID is right, an ID pharma company should clobber any "Darwinist" pharma company in the marketplace.

Yet, all we see are demands for teaching this to students so that they can decide, as though they are the arbiters. What about the pharma marketplace?

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Forgive me if this has been linked before, but in the 25 pages of posts I couldn't be sure: Expelled offers "a kickback to school administrators" for sending kids to the movie.

"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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Serious answer: Edelman was using the term metaphorically

Well, I think I'd quibble about your evaluation of his usage as a metaphor; but I'll just agree with you for the sake of argument. My question then simply gets more specific: if the term can be used metaphorically (even if only weakly so) by scientists, then why is it unacceptable for the film (and laymen, and critics) to use the term metaphorically? We utilize language in ways that we see others utilize it; and if actual scientists us terms in such a way in a pop-culture context, that pretty much legitimizes such usage.

Now, I understand why scientists wouldn't be very happy about the misappropriation of poor metaphors and their villainization; but the right answer to that offense is educating the public about those terms and their meanings, not placing those terms off limits for those outside the club.

I would hope that film critics would have little trouble distinguishing metaphors from literal claims.

Certainly; and I would hope that scientists would have little trouble distinguishing between a film and an article in a scientific journal.

Expelled is equally imprecise (or metaphorical, if you like) in its use of the term "I.D" as it is in its use of the term "Darwinist." But no more so, as far as I can tell, than is much of the stuff in Discover.

In Discover, I don't see a single case outside of the letters in which "darwinist" or "darwinism" were used to represent a philosophy or science, do you?

"Darwinist," no. "Darwinism," heck yeah. All over the place. And if you're going to insist that every instance is metaphorical, I'll only have to observe that the magazine's editors had better start asking their contributors to start writing more like scientists and less like lit majors. But then it wouldn't be Discover, would it?

I don't see that I've made such a claim at all.

Okay. But that's what it seemed like to me. Thanks for clarifying about the difference between a metaphorical usage and literal usage. Would it be fair to say that you find the metaphorical usage, then, to be "misleading political language"?

Here's an example of how the term prevents understanding:

That's an excellent example, and a useful explanation. But as your example itself illustrates, "the term prevents understanding" only when dialogue stops. (Terms don't prevent understanding; people do? Oh my.) An explanation goes a long way toward promoting understanding, as does agreeing on the definitions of terms. Saying "we shouldn't use this term because it clouds understanding" would eliminate a whole bunch of words from our language such as "Christian," "Muslim," "atheist," and so on. Difficult terms are always going to be misappropriated. The solution is not to dodge them, but to clarify them and represent them well.

As for your quotes, Mayr was speaking historically, and Ruse is a philosopher who makes a living on this controversy.

I'm sorry; does that disqualify their definitions and usage? You specifically asked about branches of science and philosophy labeled "Darwinism." I happened to stumble across those while researching something else, and they seemed pretty pointed references by a noted scientist and a noted philosopher (the latter appearing in Expelled) who seem to think that there are indeed schools of science and philosophy labeled "Darwinism."

It's worth noting another important part of Mayr's lecture with respect to Expelled's claims about the consequences of "Darwinism"

Oh, yes. Mayr's lecture was very interesting indeed.

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Well, I think I'd quibble about your evaluation of his usage as a metaphor; but I'll just agree with you for the sake of argument. My question then simply gets more specific: if the term can be used metaphorically (even if only weakly so) by scientists, then why is it unacceptable for the film (and laymen, and critics) to use the term metaphorically?

The film uses it literally, not metaphorically.

Now, I understand why scientists wouldn't be very happy about the misappropriation of poor metaphors and their villainization; but the right answer to that offense is educating the public about those terms and their meanings, not placing those terms off limits for those outside the club.

The better course is educating children about the scientific method, for which the ID movement provides a beautiful example of avoidance of science. I'm doing my part in the educational arena by serving on my local school district's science curriculum committee and helping teachers who never were taught properly.

Expelled is equally imprecise (or metaphorical, if you like) in its use of the term "I.D" as it is in its use of the term "Darwinist." But no more so, as far as I can tell, than is much of the stuff in Discover.

I don't view "imprecise" as equivalent to "metaphorical." As for Discover, it's hard to say who is responsible, but look at journalism in general!

In Discover, I don't see a single case outside of the letters in which "darwinist" or "darwinism" were used to represent a philosophy or science, do you?

"Darwinist," no. "Darwinism," heck yeah. All over the place.

I only saw four to which I would object, and they don't quite clear the bar of describing a philosophy or science.

And if you're going to insist that every instance is metaphorical, I'll only have to observe that the magazine's editors had better start asking their contributors to start writing more like scientists and less like lit majors. But then it wouldn't be Discover, would it?

I dunno, as I don't read it. I won't insist that every instance is metaphorical--some are accurate in a historical sense, some are comically ignorant, but they really aren't that frequent given that "evolution" gives you >3000 hits. The adjective that's more likely to be correct in a typical scientific context, "Darwinian," gives 137 hits.

Would it be fair to say that you find the metaphorical usage, then, to be "misleading political language"?

No.

That's an excellent example, and a useful explanation. But as your example itself illustrates, "the term prevents understanding" only when dialogue stops. (Terms don't prevent understanding; people do? Oh my.)

Apologies--I should have used "precludes" instead and attributed it to people, as in "The liberal use of the term tends to preclude understanding on the part of the messenger or the target of the message." Is that better? I agree that terms must be clarified, but journalists don't help. Look at our current perversion of the terms "liberal" and "conservative" as an example. Neither one can be rescued IMO.

I'm sorry; does that disqualify their definitions and usage?

No, it explains them.

You specifically asked about branches of science and philosophy labeled "Darwinism." I happened to stumble across those while researching something else, and they seemed pretty pointed references by a noted scientist and a noted philosopher (the latter appearing in Expelled) who seem to think that there are indeed schools of science and philosophy labeled "Darwinism."

Well, my point is that there was such a school, but no one attends it any more. Its classrooms are empty, but philosophers (which scientists tend to evolve into as their productivity declines) like to concentrate on people over evidence.

But if that was a mainstream label as you are trying to suggest, why would mentions be more relevant than titles of professional journals? After all, no one would dispute that virology is a science, and when I search my institution's journal holdings, I get:

Annales de l'Institut Pasteur. Virology (0242-5017)

Archives of virology (0304-8608)

Clinical and diagnostic virology (0928-0197)

Comprehensive virology (0886-487X)

Excerpta medica. Section 4, Microbiology, bacteriology, virology, mycology, parasitology (0014-4088)

International journal of microbiology and hygiene. Abstracts, medical microbiology, virology, parasitology, hygiene, preventive medicine = Zentralblatt fur Bakteriologie, Mikrobiologie und Hygiene. Re (0177-3100)

Journal in computer virology (1772-9890)

Journal of clinical virology (1386-6532)

Journal of general virology (0022-1317)

Journal of medical virology (0146-6615)

Journal of virology (0022-538X)

Methods in virology (0076-6933)

Perspectives in virology (0072-9086)

Progress in medical virology (0079-645X)

Research in virology (Paris) (0923-2516)

Seminars in virology (1044-5773)

Virology (New York, N.Y.) (0042-6822)

Virology abstracts (0042-6830)

Virology and aids abstracts (0042-6830)

Virology & AIDS abstracts (0896-5919)

Virology journal

Virology monographs = die Virusforschung in Einzeldarstellungen (0083-6591)

Zentralblatt fur Bakteriologie, Mikrobiologie und Hygiene. Series A, Medical microbiology, infectious diseases, virology, parasitology = International journal of microbiology and hygiene (0174-3031)

While I get bupkis if I search for Darwin, Darwinist, Darwinism, or even Darwinian. You don't consider that evidence? Even though the most common concept of eugenics has been rightly discarded, I still can read:

Annals of eugenics

from 1925 to 1954

Eugenics quarterly (0097-2762)

from 1966 to 1968

Greg, just think for a moment--can you name any science that is named for a person? Even the suffix "-ist" is more commonly used as a joke, as in this review:

Science 24 August 2001:

Vol. 293. no. 5534, pp. 1446 - 1447

Tauists and baptists United--Well Almost!

Virginia M.-Y. Lee*

The brains of Alzheimer's disease (AD) patients [HN1] contain two hallmark pathological features: neurofibrillary tangles composed of tau protein and senile plaques [HN2] composed of deposits of amyloid-b peptide. A controversy still rages over whether tau tangles or amyloid-b plaques are the primary cause of neurodegeneration in AD, and each has its vocal advocates--the tauists and baptists, respectively....

Maybe this happens because those of us who work to understand Alzheimer's disease don't need to take ourselves as seriously as those who do evolutionary biology do.

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The film uses it literally, not metaphorically.

As near as I can tell, no moreso than Edelman does. But I'm not a scientist, so I can only make my assessment from a layman's point of view... and from having seen the film only once, without thinking about it from that perspective going in.

The better course is educating children about the scientific method

No argument from me there! And I certainly would never point to the film as an example of how to go about doing that. In fact, the only marginal recommendation I gave the film in my review was as entertainment. Otherwise, I believe I said that all the film manages to do is "stir up an already sloppy pot," or something like that.

As for Discover, it's hard to say who is responsible, but look at journalism in general!

Indeed. I don't cite Discover as the epitome of anything; it's just the only magazine I'm familiar with that discusses such things on a regular basis.

I only saw four to which I would object, and they don't quite clear the bar of describing a philosophy or science.

Probably tied to how metaphorical one reads the reference? I dunno.

but they really aren't that frequent given that "evolution" gives you >3000 hits. The adjective that's more likely to be correct in a typical scientific context, "Darwinian," gives 137 hits.

Fair enough.

Would it be fair to say that you find the metaphorical usage, then, to be "misleading political language"?

No.

So then you find that Expelled uses misleading political language because it uses literal references rather than metaphorical, right? I find Expelled to be politically misleading because it's the nature of the artform, not because of the specific ways it uses terms like "Darwinism." I think focusing on the words themselves is politically misleading, because the agendas involved are much larger than mere words and their usage. It feels like a diversion tactic to me. (And that's not a criticism aimed specifically at you; I get what you're trying to do, and I'm grateful that you're willing to walk through all of this rather than toss in a word bomb and walk away, like I've seen a lot of folks do in other venues.)

Apologies--I should have used "precludes" instead and attributed it to people, as in "The liberal use of the term tends to preclude understanding on the part of the messenger or the target of the message." Is that better?

Agreed. And no sweat. I'm just trying to understand what you're saying, and that helps immensely.

I'm sorry; does that disqualify their definitions and usage?

No, it explains them.

Okay. I think, given the above, that I can see what you're saying.

my point is that there was such a school, but no one attends it any more. Its classrooms are empty, but philosophers (which scientists tend to evolve into as their productivity declines) like to concentrate on people over evidence.

I can take your word for this, and what I've seen lately from other sources certainly supports that. But it strikes me that this has been, in part, a reaction to the co-option and villainization of the term by the I.D. camp.

if that was a mainstream label as you are trying to suggest, why would mentions be more relevant than titles of professional journals?

Oh, they wouldn't be more relevant -- especially not from a scientific standpoint. No argument from me on any of that. But they would be (and are) are lot more frequent in the vernacular than "virology" or other specific branches of science. I'm merely pointing out a public perception problem, not arguing in its favor. And it's a very real public perception that Expelled exploits. I just don't think it's fair to blame that all on the movie. If mainstream journalists exploit the Darwinian Zeitgeist, why is it so damned unfair of Expelled to do it, too?

I'm no bigger a fan of the press than you are, I don't think, and its general tendency to dumb things down and go for sound bites instead of substance.

And I'm certainly no fan of a culture than latches onto names (like "Darwin" or "Christ") much easier than it latches on to substantive ideas.

And I really don't like movies like Expelled or Fahrenheit 9/11 that masquerade as exponents of an objective artform when they know full well that they're subjective, agenda-driven argumentation -- even when I do find them entertaining.

I just don't find that what Expelled does with language the least bit unusual for a theatrical film, or exceptionally worthy of excoriation.

At any rate, thanks for being patient with me. Now that I think I understand what you're getting at, I don't think I particularly disagree with you -- in general terms. I think I just see Expelled -- as a cultural artifact -- in a different light than you do... probably because your primary concern is science, while mine is art.

Greg Wright

Managing Editor, Past the Popcorn

Consulting Editor, Hollywood Jesus

Leader of the Uruk-Howdy, Orcs of the West

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The better course is educating children about the scientific method

No argument from me there! And I certainly would never point to the film as an example of how to go about doing that.

Let's see what you think of my method for third-graders. When you say, "Sit!" to your dog and he sits, does that mean that he understands the meaning of the word "sit"? There are at least two hypotheses (yes and no). What experiment can you do to distinguish between them?

If you understand science at that simple level, can you see that ID runs away from that last question, and the film simply screams that it does?

Probably tied to how metaphorical one reads the reference? I dunno.

No, more to whether it refers to something that's actually Darwinian or not!

So then you find that Expelled uses misleading political language because it uses literal references rather than metaphorical, right? I find Expelled to be politically misleading because it's the nature of the artform, not because of the specific ways it uses terms like "Darwinism." I think focusing on the words themselves is politically misleading, because the agendas involved are much larger than mere words and their usage. It feels like a diversion tactic to me. (And that's not a criticism aimed specifically at you; I get what you're trying to do, and I'm grateful that you're willing to walk through all of this rather than toss in a word bomb and walk away, like I've seen a lot of folks do in other venues.)

It seems to me that the use of such words is a good window to all of the other deceptions in the movie, not as an end in itself. To me, the relevance of an evolutionary tree that shows relationships between proteins with disparate functions to a pharmacology textbook is more important, but doesn't work as an entry point.

But it strikes me that this has been, in part, a reaction to the co-option and villainization of the term by the I.D. camp.

I can see how you'd get that impression, but if that were the case, shouldn't we find a "Journal of Darwinism" that changed its name in the late 1990s?

I'm merely pointing out a public perception problem, not arguing in its favor. And it's a very real public perception that Expelled exploits. I just don't think it's fair to blame that all on the movie.

No disagreement there.

If mainstream journalists exploit the Darwinian Zeitgeist, why is it so damned unfair of Expelled to do it, too?

I'd say that the former is sloppiness, but the latter represents a deliberate attempt to deceive.

And I really don't like movies like Expelled or Fahrenheit 9/11 that masquerade as exponents of an objective artform when they know full well that they're subjective, agenda-driven argumentation -- even when I do find them entertaining.

I don't even see an argument in Expelled, just a series of ruses.

At any rate, thanks for being patient with me. Now that I think I understand what you're getting at, I don't think I particularly disagree with you -- in general terms. I think I just see Expelled -- as a cultural artifact -- in a different light than you do... probably because your primary concern is science, while mine is art.

I'd say that they aren't nearly as disparate as you see them to be. Even though science eventually boils down to the evidence, there's a lot of art involved in getting there. But since we have the evidence in the end, we don't view the art as more than a means. That's basically what I was trying to convey with my citation of the Tauists vs. Baptists conflict.

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Smokey wrote:

: I don't even see an argument in Expelled, just a series of ruses.

And at least one Ruse. ;)

"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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No, more to whether it refers to something that's actually Darwinian or not! ... It seems to me that the use of such words is a good window to all of the other deceptions in the movie, not as an end in itself.

While I'm pretty sure I agree with you in principle, what you and I think really isn't the issue when it comes to the film. What average citizens in the target demographic think is; and given that the movie uses "Darwinism" and its terminological cousins in ways consistent with vernacular usage, all that use of such words demonstrates to the target audience is that the filmmakers speak their language and scientists don't. And when objectors say, in essence, "The filmmakers are inveterate liars, and their use of the term 'Darwinism' proves the point," average citizens feel assaulted or insulted as well. But I'm beating a dead horse here.

if that were the case, shouldn't we find a "Journal of Darwinism" that changed its name in the late 1990s?

Touche. That actually almost got a giggle out of me! Excellent point. Now, wouldn't it be really funny if there were such a beast?

Greg Wright

Managing Editor, Past the Popcorn

Consulting Editor, Hollywood Jesus

Leader of the Uruk-Howdy, Orcs of the West

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Forgive me for not scanning back through the entire thread, but has this link been offered yet?

It's not addressing Expelled specifically, but it might offer interesting contributions to the discussion...

P.S.  I COULD BE WRONG.

 

Takin' 'er easy for all you sinners at lookingcloser.org. Also abiding at Facebook and Twitter.

 

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And when objectors say, in essence, "The filmmakers are inveterate liars, and their use of the term 'Darwinism' proves the point," average citizens feel assaulted or insulted as well. But I'm beating a dead horse here.

That's not what I'm saying. I'm saying that their dishonesty starts with their use of the term 'Darwinism' because it's not a description of a science or philosophy. It's an attempt to make scientists look like followers of a single man instead of followers of the evidence. It's a projection designed to hide the fact that they produce no evidence themselves and have nothing to offer but appeals to authority, which are always invalid in science--which is not to claim that they aren't invoked far too often.

if that were the case, shouldn't we find a "Journal of Darwinism" that changed its name in the late 1990s?

Touche. That actually almost got a giggle out of me! Excellent point. Now, wouldn't it be really funny if there were such a beast?

Then I'd be wrong. Did you notice that I approached that scientifically, simply by offering a prediction of something that should be true if your hypothesis is correct? My point is that the scientific method is in no way limited to those of us who wear lab coats.

I'm disappointed that you didn't comment on my introduction to the scientific method for third-graders.

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I'm saying that their dishonesty starts with their use of the term 'Darwinism' because it's not a description of a science or philosophy. It's an attempt to make scientists look like followers of a single man instead of followers of the evidence.

We're going in circles here. Scientists and philosophers use the term, too. As near as I can tell, the filmmakers use it in a way that's consistent with that usage... and you haven't convinced me otherwise. All you've convinced me of is that you're unhappy with the "sloppy" way in which some philosophers, scientists, and journalists use the term; and when the I.D. camp employs the term in much the same way, you feel it's done with an inherent attempt to deceive. To say that any use of the term other than the one you prefer is fundamentally dishonest seems fairly petty. The fact is that the term is not owned exclusively by the evolutionary biology community and does not have only a very narrow, specific meaning. I don't find your opinion convincing. That's all.

And I'm pretty sure I have nothing further to add to the discussion in a constructive way.

It's a projection designed to hide the fact that they produce no evidence themselves

Well, the claim of the movie is that they are being stopped from producing evidence by Big Science. And I've been pretty clear that I don't feel the film makes its case on that score -- so I'm not arguing about that at all. I certainly have neither seen nor heard anything from the I.D. camp that I would consider scientific evidence... but that doesn't count for much, because I'm not a scientist!

Did you notice that I approached that scientifically, simply by offering a prediction of something that should be true if your hypothesis is correct? My point is that the scientific method is in no way limited to those of us who wear lab coats.

Sure I noticed. I'm not a moron, nor a third grader. I also noticed that's but one possible prediction. There might be others, too -- like a marked decrease of the use of the term starting in the late '90s.

But I wasn't stating a hypothesis -- so how could I possibly be interested in testing it? I was merely stating my opinion about how the situation strikes me... in a film discussion forum called "Arts & Faith," not on some science blog somewhere, for goodness sake. I'd think you might be able to tell the difference between idle speculation and a scientifically formulated hypothesis. ;)

I'm disappointed that you didn't comment on my introduction to the scientific method for third-graders.

Sorry; it seemed pretty rhetorical and obvious, and in connection with a point I have no argument with you about.

Greg Wright

Managing Editor, Past the Popcorn

Consulting Editor, Hollywood Jesus

Leader of the Uruk-Howdy, Orcs of the West

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